Richard W Halperin – A Walk with My Father

Halperin LE P&W March 2024

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing March 2024.

A Walk with My Father, poems by Richard W Halperin.

A Walk with My Father

I am walking with my father. In a field.
We never did that, we were both city boys.
He explains to small me what a snapdragon is,
then snaps one. Above us are tangled clouds.
Yesterday I wrote a poem about tangled clouds.
Not good to repeat. ‘Why not?’ he asks.
A good walk, this. He knows that my
favourite novel is Fathers and Sons.
I know that his is The Cruel Sea. When I
was a boy, he would sometimes say,
‘Let’s go hit a bucket of balls,’ and we
would go to the park and hit them. This walk
is the same as that. A universe of two,
in the universe, is a universe.

A Poem My Mother Might Fancy

She would fancy any poem I wrote,
because her son wrote it. Or, if it were
a difficult poem, she would try to like it,
wishing that it could give her the pleasure
of ´Daffodils’ or of Joan Sutherland’s
Lucia. She would not want the poem
to be about herself, mothers didn’t
mean much to her. She would, I think, like it
if I wrote a poem about Dior’s New Look.
She loved The New Look, she was a very
romantic lady. ´Romantic lady? Could that
be put in a poem about me?’ So, I have.

The Alhambra Revisited

for Paul Clements

My mother left Belfast as a child in 1922
to emigrate to America. She referred often
to the Alhambra, a vast Belfast concert hall
where her father – she was a Daddy’s girl –

would take her to Balfe, Verdi, Wagner.
When as a middle-aged man I began
visiting Belfast, I would mention the Alhambra
to blank stares. No surprise there, my mother

made things up, as suited her at the moment.
But recently, a Belfast literary journalist
told me, yes, there once was an Alhambra here,
and sent me a photograph of it, 1937,

taken by Alexander Hogg. The building
had become a cinema, subsequently destroyed
by fire in the 1960s. In 1937,
when the camera clicked, the film was

The Charge of the Light Brigade, 
Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Magic,
shadow, red plush seats, little hand in big hand,
little girl never wanting to go home.

She never did. Her son, yours truly
(little bow taken over the footlights),
how did he turn out? Like most people:
all three Karamazov brothers.

And she? Perched on a balcony seat
next to The Handsomest Man
in the World, under the best dome that could
be built for a few pounds sterling.

At the Brasserie Balzar

For Cindy

February 10th, 5:00 p.m. I am here, solo,
to celebrate with a late lunch the life
of my friend Jack, who died unexpectedly
a few weeks ago. I have been coming here
for forty years. So did he. I look up
from my kir at the high ceilings,
the immaculate tablecloths, the huge
green potted plants, the oil painting of
of two early twentieth century regulars
sitting on a banquette just over there,
the enormous mirrors which double us all.
I live with Ecclesiastes, which I can
sum up in three words: ‘Here’s to Jack!’
I look around again. Grand Hotel. People
come, people go, nothing ever changes.
Garbo effortlessly walks away with
the whole picture, as she always does.

© Richard W. Halperin

Richard W. Halperin holds U.S.-Irish dual nationality and lives in Paris. Since 2010, he has seen four poetry collections published by Salmon/Cliffs of Moher and sixteen shorter collections by Lapwing/Belfast. A Selected & New Poems, Introduction by Joseph Woods, will be launched by Salmon in Spring 2024. In May 2024, Mr Halperin will read from his work as part of the Heinrich Böll Memorial Weekend, Achill Island.

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